Three and half seconds

Three and half seconds

A quarterback has, on average, just three and half seconds to throw the ball before getting sacked. In those crazy moments, he needs to scan the perimeter, locate teammates and threats, choose the target with the best probability of success, and throw.

As Jonah Lehrer from the Frontal Cortex pointed out, that is why NFL managers rely on the Wonderlic test, a 50-question, 12-minute test that measures IQ through logic and math problems. The assumption is simple: those quarterbacks who are better at algebra will make better decisions.


Unfortunately, this assumption’s all is wrong. If quarterbacks were forced to consciously contemplate their passing decisions – if they treated the game like a question on the Wonderlic– they’d get sacked every time, a classic case of paralysis-by-analysis. The fact is, the velocity of the game makes thought impossible. What recent research in neuroscience suggests is that quarterbacks choose where to throw the ball by relying on their unconscious brain.

It has been suggested the test is applied to quarter-backs as a way to perpetuate racial discrimination in the NFL, and it’s used to “prove the insufficiency of black intelligence to play the position”.

20 is the average, and a “score of 10 is literacy“. Pat McInally is the only know perfect-scorer, 50 out of 50. Alex Smith, QB for the 49ers, scored a 40.

Vince Young, Titan’s “soft QB”, scored 6 before testing again and upgrading to 16.

Think it’s easy? Take (a sample of) the test yourself here.